Nobel Committee, Strategic As Ever, Taps Obama for Peace Prize

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama.

Some initial commentary has called the award unprecedented and wondered why the committee would give President Obama the award when he "hasn't done anything yet."

But anyone who thinks this award is unprecedented hasn't been paying attention.

The Nobel Committee gave South African Bishop Desmond Tutu the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his leadership of efforts to abolish apartheid in South Africa. Apartheid wasn't fully abolished in South Africa until 1994. The committee could have waited until after apartheid was abolished to say, "Well done!" But the point of the award was to help bring down apartheid by strengthening Bishop Tutu's efforts. In particular, everyone knew that it was going to be much harder for the apartheid regime to crack down on Tutu after the Nobel Committee wrapped him in its protective cloak of world praise.

That's what the Nobel Committee is trying to do for Obama now. It's giving an award to encourage the change in world relations that Obama has promised, and to try to help shield Obama against his domestic adversaries. The committee is well aware that history is contingent and that Obama might fail. It knows very well that the same country that elected Obama also gave the world George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

The initial steps that Obama has taken are already under fierce attack. The Obama Administration has now recognized that the Afghan Taliban are not a threat to the United States and that the United States can live with the Afghan Taliban playing a role in the government of Afghanistan. But right-wing forces in the military, Congress, think thanks and the media are denouncing these moves towards sanity as surrender. They want a full-out Vietnam against the Taliban.

The Obama Administration has begun its promised diplomatic engagement with Iran. Of course, as every honest person knew, real engagement meant de-emphasizing the unachievable demand that Iran end its enrichment of uranium and instead focusing on achievable demands like opening Iranian enrichment facilities more fully to UN inspections and greater international oversight over the enriched uranium that Iran has already produced. Here also, the "endless war" right-wing is trying to undermine Obama.

In giving this award, the Nobel Committee is telling these right-wing forces to back off. And it's sending a message of encouragement to those Americans who put Obama in office:

"Showing signs of significant improvement. Keep up the good work."

It is unreasonable to compare Obama to Desmond Tutu. Tutu had devoted his life to that point to non-violent goals. Obama has not reversed the previous administration's violent policies, including obstructing investigations into just how far-reaching the violence was and continues to be. Prior to becoming President, Obama voted in favor of several bills that continued the violence. There is no history of opposing violence, in comparison to Tutu.

"Anything war can do, peace can do better." -- Desmond Tutu

As Obama considers escalating the troop presence in Afghanistan, can you really compare Obama to Desmond Tutu?

This column is either a product of wishful thinking or Democratic Party disinformation designed to provide cover for an administration that continues to fund the war machine at record levels. You can hope the Nobel Peace Prize gives Obama a push towards a "swords into plowshares" policy, and one thing is clear: the prize was definitely awarded on the basis of hope for what Obama will do, rather than recognition for what he has already done.

What is really unreasonable is the notion that a new president can come into office and throw a switch to undo the mess that an eight-year regime created, without throwing the country into an even greater degree of chaos than already exists. The man has been in office for nine and a half months.

The difference in viewpoints on Obama's efficacy and "worthiness" for the prize fall into two camps: those who value conceptualization, analysis THEN action and those who are only satisfied with actions and proofs. Those are human qualities that will always be with us and one of the reasons that we must sometimes "agree to disagree" to move forward.

For my money, I believe that JFP has nailed it on this issue.

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